L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

« Previous Post | L.A. at Home Home | Next Post »

L.A. interior designers pay it forward
at new Upward Bound homeless shelter

February 3, 2010 | 10:34 am
Upward bound 2

Just two days before the new Upward Bound House Family Shelter was to debut last week, 18 interior designers good-naturedly traded tables, shared paint and swapped rugs.

At the former budget Culver City motel, vacuums and strollers were parked outside the rooms as the volunteers put finishing touches on the new emergency shelter for homeless families with children. “These people are sleeping in their cars,” said volunteer coordinator Dara Lasky of the families who will begin moving in this month. “They need the extra three months to get their lives together.”

Interior designers Vanessa De Vargas of Turquoise Interior Design and Erica Islas of EMI Interior Design (shown above) spearheaded the effort, enlisting 16 designers to revamp the motel rooms -- pro bono -- in just two weeks.

Word spread via design blogs, Facebook, phone calls and e-mails, and the designers received donations of furniture, accessories, money and labor. "I haven't had to pay for labor," says Rachel Winokur of her newly skimmed walls. "Even the Thai restaurant down the street gave us 10% off."

The designers have committed to helping four families who will live in the roughly 200- to 300-square- foot rooms for three-month stints. When the families leave, they will take the donated bedding and bath linens with them to a permanent home. Upward Bound House, a nonprofit based in Santa Monica, boasts a 95% success rate with helping families secure and retain permanent housing. 

To see more of the designers in action, go to the jump.


Linda Graveline created striking window treatments using some colorful silk charmeuse that she was going to use for sewing. "I wanted to make it livable," she said of her space. "I want them to worry about what matters most."

Rachel Winokur of eTTa designs, seen above cleaning a top bunk, redecorated a tiny 130-square-foot studio. She installed a delicate print (and recycled paper) wallpaper donated by Madison and Grow and repainted the bunk beds white to make the room feel more spacious. “It feels good to provide something really beautiful and special in this temporary home for families,” Winokur said.

Upwardbound5 Nadia Geller of Nadia Geller Design thought of her own family when she designed her room. "I thought, 'What if I had to sit in here with my husband and child?'" she said. Having once lived in a hotel for three months, she knew it was important to design something fresh, bold and graphic. The reclaimed wood for the headboard was donated, as were the jeans for the custom pillows, shown above.

To create a durable, family-friendly headboard, De Vargas of Turquoise Interior Design laminated Madison and Grow wallpaper at Staples and framed it with wood molding. "I can't believe the generosity of all the local businesses," she says. Zia-Priven lights, Amenity Home pillows and Eclectics side tables also were donated.

Kelly LaPlante of Organic Interior Design nailed sliced pieces of cork to the wall above each bunk bed. Now, when the kids arrive, they can personalize their space by tacking their things to the wall.  La Plante repurposed nearly everything in the room -- lamps, drapes, mirrors -- and used organic sheets and non-toxic paint from Benjamin Moore.


Stas Rader is creatively cordoned off while his parents Michael Rader and designer Kelly La Plante install a light fixture.


Butterfly decals from Ferm Living were used to decorate the wall above the bunk beds in the converted motel room decorated by Vanessa De Vargas. 


Irene Sumarsono re-touches a wall in the room designed by Nadia Geller, who worked with Jill Crawford to create the graphic mural. Benjamin Moore donated five cans of their Natura, odorless, zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint to each designer. 

-- Lisa Boone

Photo credits: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times